It is exercise alone that supports the spirits,
and keeps the mind in vigor.
Xamining the XBy Steve Edwards
With the arrival of P90X®+, many of you might be wondering how we could improve upon the "most extreme home fitness system ever." The simple answer is, there's always new training, new techniques, and a new way to look at things to take them (and you) to the next level. P90X is the step from fitness to extreme fitness. The Plus takes it to yet another level. Our focus was to give you more options to maximize your fitness experience. P90X+ is not trying to top the X but to enhance its efficiency for those who have reached the peak. Let's take a brief look at the science behind P90X and why you'll want to add X+ to your home fitness arsenal.
The History: What's Next?
P90X wouldn't have come about if not for the success of Power 90® and Slim in 6®. Designed around our principles of Slim Training® and Sectional Progression™, we marketed these to combat the rising obesity epidemic at the entry level. Both of these programs could be done by just about anyone, whether an ex-college athlete or a couch potato who'd never exercised a day in their life. As our database grew and the number of Success Stories mounted, we were besieged with the obvious question, "What's next?"
But P90X didn't come about overnight. We knew we were creating a market for a highly advanced home fitness program, but we wanted to make sure that it would be perfect, or at least darn close to it. As we kicked around concepts and ideas, we developed a few simpler graduate programs, such as Power Half Hour® and Slim Series®, as well as broadened our appeal to the entry-level client with the addition of Yoga Booty Ballet®, Kathy Smith's Project: YOU™, Turbo Jam®, and Hip Hop Abs®. Our long-term vision was to bring in clientele from all walks of life. Then, once committed to our healthy lifestyle, we would provide the means to take them to the ultimate level.
The Periodizational Approach
Periodizational training is training in specific blocks in order to achieve a goal. While the standard in athletic training for decades, it hadn't been applied to home fitness except at its most basic level. In our initial meetings on how to construct P90X, a periodizational approach was the first concept that we all easily agreed upon.
Our challenge was then how to come up with a program targeting overall fitness for every individual. When you train for a sport, your goals are pretty clear. With general fitness, targets can be across the board. Instead of focusing on body sculpting, the X approach would be overall body fitness and performance. We wanted to achieve increases in strength, speed, power, flexibility, aerobic efficiency, and mind and body awareness—a tall order for a 12-week program. But we knew that if we could pull if off, body sculpting would naturally follow.
Athletes train in blocks. These are phases of increased intensity with a recovery period between each block. As you move through the phases of each block, you alter what you do in order to keep the stimulus to the stressed energy system high. The more fit you are, the quicker the body adapts and the more often you need to move into the next phase or block. We call this process of altering your exercises Muscle Confusion. In reality, it's total-body energy system confusion because you're doing the same thing to your aerobic system, your anaerobic system, your lung capacity, and so on. But that was too long an explanation, so we settled on Muscle Confusion.
The reason athletes train this way is that when you begin an exercise, your body goes through a period of time when it adapts to the new movements. Once it's adapted (learned how to do the movements efficiently), you get to a mastery phase where your muscles (and all stressed systems) respond to training and make enormous fitness gains. This period is short because your body is always trying to become more efficient. The more efficient, or better, you become at something, the less it affects you, so naturally, your results will then level off. This is called a plateau.
Once you hit a plateau it's time to reshuffle the deck and begin another block. A targeted recovery phase enables your body to heal its microtrauma and grow stronger for the upcoming block. This way, each subsequent block can be slightly more intense than the one previously completed. Using calculated training blocks, your results curve will continually point skyward.
Luckily, we'd had a lot of experience with our members and Success Stories that gave us a solid idea on how to craft that ultimate training diet. Similar to that way your body adapts to exercise, it also changes and adapts to different nutritional strategies. The P90X diet is based around how we've gotten the most overall success with all of our members.
Essentially, this is done in three phases. First, we limit carbohydrate consumption. Among other things, this teaches the individual the role the carbs play in their diet. When reduced, the body is forced to look for energy from sources other than blood sugar. Since stored fat (and some muscle) doesn't fuel the body as efficiently as glycogen (or blood sugar), this phase not only teaches the body to use its fat more efficiently for energy but teaches the individual how to feel the way carbohydrates fuel their body. Subsequent phases add more carbs to facilitate harder training until, ultimately, the relationship of food as fuel is well understood.
The Ultimate 12-Week Transformation
With this combination of diet and exercise, we were able to achieve incredible results in human performance over a 12-week program. And because of the variety of workouts we created, P90X could be retooled to target various goals and could be used over and over again.
So Why the Plus?
No matter how good a program is, you don't want to do the same routines forever. You can, and it would work, but it's more efficient using the modalities described above if you continually find ways to force new adaptations on both your mind and body. When we then analyzed the fitness gains achieved during a cycle of P90X, we knew that we could actually increase the intensity per minute and continue to provide fitness gains to X graduates, in even less time!
There's a rule in both diet and fitness (that seems particularly unfair to de-conditioned folks) that allows you to do less to maintain—or even improve—your fitness than what it took to get in shape in the first place. It's why a piece of cake does little to an athlete, whose raging metabolism can put the empty calories to work, but will go right to a sedentary person's thighs. A well-trained person can also push their body harder and tax their energy systems quicker than their less-fit brethren. When sprinter Michael Johnson was training for his Olympic double (he won both the 200 and 400 meters and set world records), the public was surprised to hear that he finished the bulk of his training in less than an hour. But for ultimate performance, efficiency is far more important than time. The Plus follows this model—combining difficult moves in a symbiotic fashion in order to maximize your workout time for ultimate results. The new question begs, are you ready for the Plus?
Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.
Shop Your Way to a Six-PackBy Steve Edwards
With the holiday season now in full swing, many of us dread losing the fitness gains we just spent the last 11 months working our tails off to get. And, with a party around every corner and a to-do list on which WOWY® (Work Out With You, our virtual gym) keeps getting pushed to the bottom, it's hardly a far-fetched possibility. But fitness solutions are our business and, no matter how dire the situation becomes, we've got an angle to help you. Today, it's how to improve your fitness when your life seems like a month-long shopping marathon.
This is the part where I fess up to a bit of hyperbole. You're not going to get a six-pack with this or any workout alone. A visible six-pack is dependent upon a few different factors, such as your body fat percentage and how developed your core muscles are. The cool thing is that you can strengthen some of these muscles without having to sweat. In fact, you can even do it while you're sitting in a car or standing in line at the mall.
This workout will train your pelvic girdle and your transversus muscles. The pelvic girdle consists of many small internal muscles that hold your organs in place. The transversus muscles serve to keep your abdominal wall from protruding. While you don't see these muscles, they are responsible for giving you a flat stomach.
These muscles should be engaged when you train your abs. You do this by essentially sucking in your gut and keeping the entire core region "small" and rigid as you do your normal ab exercises. But these are support muscles, not prime movers, and should be trained more often than the larger and stronger muscles that you can see. Keeping these muscles strong is vital for your general health as well as allowing you to train those larger and more visible muscles longer and harder.
You exercise the pelvic girdle muscles by doing what are called Kegel movements. You may have heard of these as they are prescribed as sex therapy exercises as well. Kegels are performed by clenching your insides—like what you'd do in order to cut off the flow of urine.
The transversus is trained by performing a "vacuum" movement. To do this, simply suck in your gut, pulling your belly button as close to your lower back as you can get it. It's easiest to begin by imagining a vacuum pulling all of the excess air out of your core. Then focus on breathing slowly while holding the contraction.
You can do these exercises in numerous ways and almost any time you wish. If you feel as though you're too tired to do them, it's a sign you could be "overtraining." It's unlikely that you'll reach this state, unless you're fanatical, because they mainly consist of slow-twitch muscle fiber.
Here's a quick and easy workout that you can do in your car, standing in line, or almost anywhere you've got a few minutes with nothing to do.
These exercises are subtle so it helps to have good body awareness. Being that it's a simple warmup, it will help you have better focus on the main exercises—not to mention your life in general.
- Take deep breaths in through your nose; slowly exhale out through your mouth.
- Bring your shoulder to your ear in a circular motion. Alternate sides.
- Rotate your wrists in both directions while opening and closing your fingers—one arm at a time (not really recommended when you're driving, of course).
- Exhale quickly and contract your abs. Hold. Breathe in through your nose.
These don't have to be exact, so counting will be easier than using a watch. Also, don't feel the need to do all of it. Since these movements can be done often, just fit them in whenever you can. Some is always better than none.
- 20 short Kegels: 2 seconds on. 1 second off.
- 10 vacuums: 10 seconds on. 5 seconds off.
- 4 medium Kegels: 15 seconds on. 5 seconds off.
- 4 vacuums: 30 seconds on. 15 seconds off.
- 2 long Kegels: 1 minute on. 30 seconds off.
- 2 long vacuums: 1 minute on. 30 seconds off.
Test Your Carb IQ!By Monica Gomez
True or False?
- TRUE: The human brain depends mainly on carbohydrates for its energy. Glucose, a monosaccharide or simple sugar, is the most common carbohydrate (also known as a simple carbohydrate). And it is the fuel used by the mitochondrial furnaces responsible for brain power (glucose is the sole fuel normally used by brain cells)—and the main carbohydrate that the body breaks down for energy. For every carbohydrate gram in food, you get four calories of energy. While simple carbohydrates or simple sugars are found in several processed food products (ex. table sugar, soft drinks, candy, and cakes), they're also found in natural foods, including apples, grapefruit, melons, oranges, pears, and strawberries. Keeping in mind that your brain cells need two times more energy than the other cells in your body, fuel up with a refreshing and nutritious fruit salad for brain power and energy.
- TRUE: Gas is produced by foods that have indigestible or excess carbohydrates. Deemed, in more technical terms, "carbohydrate malabsorption." There are some carbohydrates that the body does not digest and absorb in the small intestine because of a shortage or absence of certain enzymes. The undigested food then passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, where normal, harmless bacteria break down the food—thus producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and even methane (in about one-third of all people). Some simple and complex carbohydrates (or simple and complex sugars) that can cause gas include raffinose, lactose, fructose, and sorbitol. Gas-producing foods include: beans; cabbage; fruits (including pears, apples, and peaches); soft drinks; milk and milk products; and some dietetic foods and sugar-free candies and gums.
- FALSE: Complex carbohydrates break down quickly in your body. Actually, complex carbs break down slowly in your body. This helps maintain a normal blood sugar level—causing you to feel fuller longer. Found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains, you will receive a steadier and more gradual stream of energy throughout the day from eating natural complex carbs versus eating simple carbs (which include processed foods like candy, cake, soda, and fruit juice). Three complex carbs, or polysaccharides, of particular importance to the body are starch, glycogen, and dietary fiber. It is recommended that most carbs be consumed in the form of complex carbs, which provide the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that processed or refined sugars (or carbs) can't offer.
- FALSE: Avoiding carbohydrates altogether will help with weight loss. Low-carb diets tout the message that carbohydrates promote insulin production, which, in turn, results in weight gain. Thus, in order to lose weight, carb intake must be either curbed to zero or almost zero. In fact, because these low-carb diets do not provide enough carbs to fuel your body, your body begins burning stored carbs (glycogen) for energy. In the process of burning stored glycogen, water is released (the initial weight loss at the start of a low-carb diet is often mostly the water lost as a result of burning glycogen). Low-carb diets' effectiveness can be attributed to the fact that they are often calorie-restricting diets. And eating too many calories, regardless of the food source (not just carbs), will cause weight gain. Remember that carbs are the main source of energy for your brain and muscles—so choose the right and natural carbs that will fuel your body.
- TRUE: One cup of canned pinto beans provides more carbs than one cup of frozen edamame. One cup of canned pinto beans yields 36.6 grams of total carbs, including 5.5 grams of dietary fiber and 0.3 grams of sugar. You'll also receive 5.8 grams of protein, 51.6 milligrams of calcium, and 291.5 milligrams of potassium. However, you'll also get 353 milligrams of sodium along with those other benefits (15 percent of your RDA). One cup of frozen edamame contains 18 grams of total carbs—with 8 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of sugar. You also consume 16 grams of protein and 257.5 milligrams of calcium in that cup. But, you only get 13 milligrams of salt. Both contain very few total fat grams.